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Israel said bracing for possible strikes by Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Yemen

IDF holds discussions about possibility of missile and drone attacks from Houthis and Iraqi groups, report says

Illustrative: Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi rebels raise their weapons and chant slogans during a gathering against the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in Sanaa, Yemen, August 22, 2020. (AP/Hani Mohammed, File)
Illustrative: Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi rebels raise their weapons and chant slogans during a gathering against the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in Sanaa, Yemen, August 22, 2020. (AP/Hani Mohammed, File)

The Israeli military is preparing for the possibility of a strike by Iran-backed militias in Iraq or Yemen, according to a Friday report.

The Israeli Defense Forces held discussions last week about possible attacks, including missile and drone strikes, from the Iraqi militias and Houthi groups in Yemen, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Tensions in the Middle East have heated in recent weeks as Israel and the US have traded threats with Iran ahead of the 1-year anniversary of the US airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Iran has also threatened to attack Israel since the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in late November, in a raid blamed on the Jewish state.

Further ratcheting up tensions, the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday that Iran intends to produce uranium enriched up to 20 percent purity, well beyond the threshold set by the 2015 Vienna accord and a short jump from weapons-grade material.

The Friday report from Kan echoed comments made last week by IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, who told a Saudi news outlet that Israel was not aware of any specific plans by Iran to attack the Jewish state, but that Iranian forces could carry out an attack from Iraq or Yemen.

He said Israel had information indicating Iran was developing unmanned aerial vehicles and “smart missiles” in Iraq and Yemen, and that the weapons could have the ability to strike Israel.

Iraqi militiamen march and chant anti-US slogans while carrying a picture of Qassem Soleimani, left and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, days after their assassination, Baghdad, Iraq, January 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

Zilberman said Israel was tracking Iranian movements around the region, and that Israeli submarines were quietly “sailing everywhere.” His interview came after an Israeli submarine reportedly openly crossed the Suez Canal in a show of force directed at Iran.

A day after the interview was published, an unnamed Iranian official told Al Jazeera that “Tehran’s response to any attack on national security will be strong and wide.”

US officials have expressed concern that Iran may be planning attacks against US-allied targets in neighboring Iraq or elsewhere in the region. In recent weeks the US military has taken a range of steps designed to deter Iran, while publicly emphasizing that it is not planning, and has not been instructed, to take unprovoked action against Iran.

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran against any attack, and the US has flown strategic bombers over the Persian Gulf in a show of force meant to deter Iran from attacking American or allied targets in the Middle East.

In a strikingly similar move to the reported Israeli submarine crossing of the Suez Canal, a US nuclear submarine crossed the Strait of Hormuz on Monday.

Iranian officials have issued a stream of threats against the US as the anniversary of Soleimani’s death approaches. The general was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on January 3 of last year.

The US State Department on Tuesday advanced the sale of 3,000 precision-guided glide bombs to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief regional foe.

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